Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jails and prisons the new 'psychiatric hospitals'

Rogette Nicole Harris wrote an interesting op-ed on mental illness and crime for the Harrisburg Patriot-News.  Here are some excerpts:

Unfortunately, the safety net for the mentally ill is vanishing.

Last year, two-thirds of the nation’s states cut mental health care appropriations. If this continues, the chance of catching future gunmen before they act declines.

A survey of mental health agencies in Philadelphia found that children have to wait an average of 37 days to start treatment. That is 37 days too many.

States such as Pennsylvania are transferring mental health funds to local county officials as block grants, combining the money with other programs.

When social service programs are forced to compete with other local needs, mental health often suffers. As a result, society suffers and is in danger.

In 2008, 67,560 uninsured people in Pennsylvania did not get mental health care because they could not afford the services...

In Pennsylvania, more than a half-million adults and children live with serious mental illness, the second-leading cause of disability after heart disease and the second-leading cause of workplace absenteeism.

And the consequences of nontreatment are devastating.

People with untreated psychiatric illnesses comprise one-third of the homeless population, are more likely to commit suicide, and comprise about 16 percent of the total jail and prison inmate population.

These statistics are a direct reflection of the failure of public mental health systems to provide appropriate care and treatment to individuals with severe mental illnesses.

The key word here is untreated. When treated, individuals with a mental disorder can lead productive, fulfilling lives and make positive contributions to society...

Without proper treatment, jails and prisons have emerged as the new “psychiatric hospitals.” This is unacceptable and only puts a temporary bandage on the problem.

To read more:

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